3 years of travelling through Paris, London, Istanbul, Strasbourg, Zurich, Zermatt, Izmir, Alanya, space, time, continuum…
including traversable wormholes and 1 anthole.
Music: Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle
“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”
Thank you for watching.
I shared a room with three girls in a hostel in the south of France.
One was from the German speaking part of Switzerland. I didn’t know until recently, but the land of the Swiss actually has four official languages, not including English, which they treat as one also. Aside from their version of German, which, from what picked up, isn’t understood by a German who hasn’t studied Dutch—something that my mind doesn’t like when it considers the fact that the Germans refer to their language, German, as Dutch. I’d be interested in finding out how they call what we call Dutch, but apparently not enough to open google.
I asked my “German-speaking” roommate if she, as an example of a Swiss resident, spoke three of the languages of her country, on top of English which she was speaking with me (I say three, because the fourth language is quite strange, and hardly acknowledged. Everywhere you go, you see everything in four languages, “Bienvenue, Benvenuti, Willkommen, Welcome,” but their fourth, obscure language is generally ignored. I was told it’s a mix of Latin, German, French and Italian, or something along those lines, and it’s spoken in a very small area of the country). Her answer was no, she didn’t speak the other languages, though she was in the process of studying French in France.
To me, and to a German girl who was there as well, this idea was rather absurd: that she couldn’t speak to other of her country-folk. Not just that, but she couldn’t speak to the majority of her fellow citizens. She went to Geneva to work at a time in her life—I believe as a waitress—and had to speak to everyone in English as she didn’t speak French.
Then there was the problem I had with the “German” girl. As I said, she was “German,” and honestly I believed her, but my mind will never see her as such. She was a pale girl with light brown/reddish hair, who’d been living in England, just below the Scottish border, for a year and a half at the time I met her. She was working in a university, as a “Mitrologist,” as she put it, After some investigation, it turns out she was really a Meteorologist. She spoke with such a dainty, English-Scottish accent that my eyes will never look at her as a German, no matter how many times my brain reminds them. I told her about a professor I had in Spain, who claimed he was Spanish, and I’m sure he was, but as in this new case, I never once saw him as such. He’d learned English in the four years he lived in Germany, and he taught us a class on international marketing in English, due to the internationality aspect. Never hearing him speak Spanish, excepting one time he asked us how to say Farmacia in English—which blew my mind—he was just some guy with a strange, rural German accent. It helped my case that he fit a German profile physically more so than a Spanish. That man will never be Spanish to me. And this girl from the northern UK will never be German.
I got up to go to the bathroom, and it didn’t take long before they started speaking their own Germans—this “German”-northern UKer had stated earlier, when I asked whether they’d be able to speak together, that she could because she’d studied Dutch. It was all so strange. In Switzerland they speak German, but the Swiss girl was first to answer my question, answering in the negative, to then be proved wrong by the UKer’s defense of her having had studied Dutch. As I said, none of this seemed logical to me, and I asked them to speak together, so that maybe I could convince my brain that she was indeed German, but for some reason which has since left my mind, she refused. Unconsciously I reasoned it saying that it was because she was in fact nothing but an imposter, damned meteorologists. And I’m certain that I’ve forgotten her real reason due to my brain’s preferring his rationalizing, “don’t listen to her logic, she’s saying it because she doesn’t speak German.” Of course if I ever caught my brain in the act he would get a good whipping, something like a heavy drinking binge as punishment. Because I know all that, my brain’s poor-though-successful attempt at strange control, blocked the memory after I got up to go to the bathroom, in which time they began speaking their Germans, as I said.
But even that is not enough to convince me—though I said I’m certain she is in fact German—my unconscious response was, “Hey! This English girl speaks German!” It wasn’t just me, though. The third girl was French, and when there was a question on the English language, the Swiss and the French went directly to the German girl. Time and again I tried to make clear the fact that I was the only native English speaker in the room, that I was the appropriate heir to the throne, but there’s no getting past the authority of the UK accent, and, I must admit, I more than once looked inquisitively to her for proper grammaticism or vocabulary.
There’s just no convincing the senses.
Pocketed into the foothills of Table Mountain lies Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Interwoven into this verdant expanse, founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora, is a system of walking paths which snake through zones of specialized vegetation (medicinal, aromatic, etc.) a greenhouse surveying plants from different S. African regions, outdoor sculptures, and featured art exhibits. Kirstenbosch offers so much! Explore the greenery, lounge with the Momma Duck and her ducklings by the pond, study the earthworks on exhibit, or if you’re a mountaineer, begin a trek up the ravine of Skeleton’s Gorge, test your endurance in ascending Devil’s Peak, or pass through the waterfall and boulderfields of the contour path on your way to Rhodes’ Memorial.
Kirstenbosch is the most beautiful and diverse botanical garden I have ever discovered, and though I’ve hiked its mountainous labyrinth many a time, another feature has served as its main attraction to my person—the concert venue. Situated on a vast, downward sloping hill, with Table Mountain hanging magnificently over, Kirstenbosch may be my favorite venue in the world (so far as my live music experiences go). I was fortunate enough to be in Cape Town for much of the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert Series. First I tried the nation’s most popular flavor, RnB, seeing singer-songwriters Loyiso and Chad Saaiman. While the music was pleasant, it wasn’t exactly up my alley. Nevertheless, the setting and atmosphere were enough to motivate my return. How relaxing it was to sit with friends and picnic! Like most concert-goers at Kirstenbosch, we drank wine, ate cheese, laughed, and moved to the groove.
On my return to the Kirstenbosch concert venue I saw the electro-jazz sensation, Goldfish. I had already had the pleasure once before at a club in Sea Point called St. Ives and had since then been craving more of the Fish. The duo, hailing from Cape Town, consists of Dominic Peters and David Poole. Their dance-friendly electro beats are infused with African percussive elements and glazed with groovy jazz hooks. Indeed, like almost every electronic artist, Goldfish employs synthesizers, samples, and loops, but their improvised remixing and live instrumental performances make them outstanding. It’s refreshing to hear live saxophone, flute, electronic double bass, and vocals (by guest artists from S. Africa and Zimbabwe) vivify the electro foundation. Goldfish has already garnered international praise by musicians and critics alike. Their LPs have been mastered by UK’s Soundmasters, who have worked with other big names such as Zero7, Fatboyslim, Depeche Mode and Groove Armada. I anticipate the group’s continued success and strongly advise you to catch them live if you have the chance.
But Goldfish is so much more than an interesting and dance-provoking listen; they are culturally and historically profound. In particular, the electronic double bass (an instrument I previously didn’t know existed) emblemizes the group’s unique amalgamation of genres and modes of past and present. I applaud Goldfish because their creative synthesis not only represents S. Africa’s diversity, but goes further to celebrate it as well. Goldfish brings different people together all in one common and positive interest to party, dance, smile, love, and enjoy life. The endeavor toward racial harmony has been long, difficult, and painful in S. Africa – it continues today – but it in some way, be it minor, Goldfish triumphs over the discord. It is significant that one of Goldfish’s singles, “We Come Together,” alludes to the nation’s motto, found on the S. African coat of arms: “ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke,” which translates to “diverse people unite.” Music: the universal language.
Goldfish at Kirstenbosch, March 6, 2011:
“In Too Deep” by Goldfish:
I recently spent a week volunteering at the Sea Turtle Conservatory (STC) in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. This small town prides itself in being home to the largest Sea Turtle population in the Western Hemisphere. The individuals at the conservatory dedicate themselves to protecting endangered species of Sea Turtles in the area, such as Greenback, Leatherback, and Hawksbill Turtles. These turtles, some of the most ancient life forms still in existence, are now threatened by extinction because of the haphazard hand of man. Not only do factors such as pollution and litter affect their well being, but poachers are also out there willfully attempting to undo the good work that conservatories such as the STC are doing. In Costa Rica, turtle eggs are perceived as an aphrodisiac, which creates a black market demand for these freshly laid eggs. On top of that, poachers can profit from the turtle meat and shells, which are used to create jewelry.
My experience volunteering was thoroughly frustrating. Each week, we would patrol the eastern beach of Costa Rica, attempting to facilitate turtles with the laying of eggs and monitoring their travels by tagging them. Our very presence deterred poachers that patrol the same beach for significantly less righteous reasons, but I soon learned how little we were helping. In our one-week stint at the conservatory, I saw only one Hawksbill Turtle after 30 hours of walking up and down the beach that totaled to about 60 miles worth of patrol work through the soft, Costa Rican sand. I have been informed that at the same location, 2,400 turtles were counted on a single night. As we encountered our single turtle, poachers were already attempting to drag it off of the beach just as it was preparing to go into labor. Our presence scared them away and we were able to tag the turtle and assist it through the birthing process. By the time I had woken up 6 hours after this incident, the volunteers checking nests in the early morning had discovered that a poacher had already stolen all of the eggs. The service work was physically, mentally, and spiritually distressing. We as volunteers felt so small, trying to undo the infinite blunders of mankind in a short week. As I return of America, the home of excessive living and wasteful lifestyles, I wonder what good I did to help. There was simply too much to be done, too much to be undone.